UN approves C. African Republic peacekeeping force

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force for Central African Republic, where mounting violence between Christians and Muslims has brought killings, torture, and sexual violence.

The 10,000 UN troops and 1,800 police will take over from 5,000 African Union soldiers — but not until Sept. 15. A separate 2,000-strong French force in the Central African Republic was authorized to use ‘‘all necessary means’’ to support the new UN force.

How much protection UN troops will be able to offer is an open question. Keeping civilians safe throughout the Central African Republic, especially in rural areas, is already proving a difficult, if not impossible task. The country is the size of Texas, many roads have not been repaved since independence from France in 1960, and many of the people escaping violence have fled into the bush.


The country has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when mostly Muslim rebels seized power and set up a brutal regime. Christian militiamen attacked rebel strongholds in early December. As the rebel government crumbled in January, the Christian militiamen stepped up the violence, forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee.

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On the streets of the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, reactions to the UN deployment were muted.

Cyrius Zemangui-Kette, 25, who is unemployed, said UN troops should have been sent in long ago, but the international community dragged its feet and now things have gotten worse.

‘‘They say they’ll arrive in September,’’ he said. ‘‘Until then, lots of Central Africans will continue to die, so who are they coming to save?’’

Clashes between Christian and Muslim fighters in the central town of Dekoa that began Tuesday have left at least 30 people dead, a priest said Thursday. Most of the victims were civilians, killed by Muslims who fired into a crowd of people they mistook for Christian militants, the Rev. Everaldo De Suza of the Saint Anne parish said. A Christian commander confirmed the fighting but denied that his forces had started it.


Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to the killings, and Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, Central African Republic’s foreign minister, said the new resolution ‘‘lays the foundation for a solution and a way out of the crisis.’’

France, the country’s former colonial power, took the lead in mobilizing international support to address the crisis but its ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the security situation remains volatile.

‘‘African Union troops supported by the French troops are doing tremendous work to protect the civilian population but it’s not yet enough,’’ Araud said after the vote. ‘‘The resolution we have just adopted is a key turning point.’’

US Ambassador Samantha Power, who returned Thursday morning from her second visit to the country in less than four months, also praised the resolution and added: ‘‘I can personally attest to the critical urgency of bringing more security to the Central African Republic.’’

Power went to the Central African Republic after leading the US delegation to the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Rwanda genocide.